I’ve travelled the length and breadth of South Africa for the past decade, and continue to be intimately involved in people development within the educational, cultural and economic spheres.
My current job entails transformation in the agricultural sector, and what a privilege it is to be part of so many agricultural projects that are successful. In all instances, such success is the end result of win-win partnerships between black, coloured and white farmers who respect and care for each other.
However, I’ve also seen many agricultural projects that have failed. Once thriving farms are destroyed due to a lack of support and expertise, mismanagement, corruption, lack of partnerships and conflict between beneficiaries.
A critical success factor that runs like a golden thread throughout the many successful agricultural projects is ownership of land. For many black and coloured farmers, this issue is the biggest constraint, because the land on which they farm cannot be used as security to access finance.
Current policy pronouncements by the EFF and the ANC sadly, though, dismiss or question the concept of private ownership. This, for me, is a critical building block for economic freedom and wealth creation!
Nationalisation of land, as proposed by the EFF, means that the state becomes the owner of all land. Existing title deeds constituting evidence of a right, especially to ownership of property, will be nullified. The economic implications for every citizen who owns the land on which his house, factory, shop, etc is built, and where retail, manufacturing and farming operations, for example, are practised, will be dire.
Most people use their properties as security to borrow money from banks, and municipalities depend on the rates and taxes they collect from all property owners to build and maintain infrastructure.
For our treasury, which already faces a shortfall of R48 billion, the additional burden of also compensating municipalities for the loss of income from rates and taxes will result in the need to increase taxes to avoid a complete collapse of municipalities.
It is clear that, should the state become the owner of all land, it will put South Africa on a path of economic decline from which it will never be able to recover. And, while the rich will be able to emigrate and shift their money to other countries, ordinary South Africans, and especially the poor, will bear the brunt!
Many of our state institutions, such as public hospitals, schools, colleges, etc, and farms that are under the control of the state, are barely functioning and, as such, perpetuate and deepen the hardship our people endure on a day to day basis.
And, while so many people pin their hopes on accessing land for agricultural purposes, it’s clear that the proposed changes to the constitution to expropriate land without compensation will only benefit the politically connected. This has been the case for the past twenty years, and it will be no different in the event of large scale land expropriation, due to deeply rooted corruption, political patronage and incompetence.
The Agri-Phakisa initiatives, which are based on chapter six of the NDP and which are the result of intensive engagement between all government departments, agricultural labour unions, organised agricultural bodies, universities and leading agricultural policy makers, developed in-depth and comprehensive project plans related to land reform, farmer development, rural development, farmworker skills development, farmworker housing ownership plans, etc.
These plans were developed to transform the agricultural landscape in a methodological and sustainable way, in order to ensure people development, restoration of their dignity, food security and job creation! Why not implement them as a joint project between the public and private sectors under the custodianship of all of our political parties?
Sadly, though, some of our political leaders are hell-bent on stoking racial division and hatred, instead of bringing people together to work as Team South Africa for the greater good! So, too, are extremist right-wing groups who are fuelling fear, and the handful of lunatics who are threatening each other with war talk. No land grabs or illegal occupation of land has taken place thus far, which leaves the door wide open for constructive engagement between organised farmer unions and the government.
Visionary and statesmanlike leadership is now required, such that will not compromise with any attempt to change the national constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation and the nationalisation of land – because it is not in the interest of our people. Instead, it will bring about greater uncertainty, deter foreign investment and result in economic havoc and untold suffering!
For the corrupt and political opportunists, such ill-fated policies create the perfect breeding ground for self-enrichment at the expense of our citizenry, and for consolidating their power base, based on nepotism, partisanship and patronage!
Let us not be fooled by populist rhetoric that raises more questions and that provides no answers!
We do have the agricultural plans jointly developed by role players in the agricultural sector, which are based on chapter six of the NDP! The government forked out millions to get all role players around the table to devise workable and implementable plans.
The successful implementation thereof should be our first priority! Why it isn’t is beyond anyone’s grasp!
- Christo van der Rheede is Deputy executive director of Agri SA
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